By David Cowans, Group Chief Executive of Places for
When asked during a panel session at a recent housing conference
what one thing I would want to see announced in the New Year, I
responded; a programme of larger scale garden villages and towns.
So last week's Government announcement was a good start to the
This announcement has a relationship with the debate
around housing as infrastructure. Treating housing as
national infrastructure is essential if we are to solve the housing
crisis. This is a message we have been promoting for many years and
why it was great to see organisations like the Confederation of
British Industry (CBI) calling for housing to be included in the
National Infrastructure Assessment.
2016 No Place Like Home Report, the CBI stresses the need
for new ways of thinking and action which will enable houses to be
tailored to the needs and aspiration of those who will live in
them. It also argues that the UK's housing shortage is "not just a
social issue, but an acute problem for businesses."
As a placemaking organisation that's been operating across
the UK for more than 50 years, we couldn't agree more.
It is clear that the housing crisis and its impact on
communities is now so acute that we need to make significant
changes to our planning system and the delivery of infrastructure
that makes a place work.
Housing needs to be seen as a fundamental requirement for
our country that is prioritised alongside energy, transport and
water. That doesn't mean that all housing decisions should be taken
out of local hands, but thresholds applied as they are for energy
Of course it is right that local people have the
opportunity to shape the places in which they live, but we need a
different approach for housing that gives more weight to the
long-term requirements of a local area and a voice for its
potential future residents.
For Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects -
including energy, transport, waste and water projects above certain
size thresholds, such as airports and nuclear power stations - the
application is made at a national level to the Infrastructure
Planning Committee (IPC), instead of to the local planning
Classing housing as infrastructure in the planning process
may sound ambitious but without significant changes such as this,
we won't come close to overcoming the housing problems we face. No
one argues for one type of development to be the only solution to
meet our housing needs as a nation, we need all types of schemes
from small infill developments to larger strategic sites and all
sizes and types of schemes in between.
Planned villages and towns do though provide an ideal
opportunity to deliver infrastructure to showcase new
This "shop window" for well planned, well-resourced places
provides the opportunity to demonstrate that new housing equals
good quality places not to be feared, but welcomed.
This blog was originally published in
Inside Housing on 16 January 2017.
16 January 2017